Review: Ultimate I Spy

UltimateISpy.jpg The casual gaming market seems to go through phases each year now. For the past year or so Sudoku and other brain games were all the rage, but now this year the seek-and-solve genre has become the new craze. Scholastic’s I Spy series put the genre on the map, so it’s fitting that the franchise has returned once again, this time in full 3D for the Wii in Ultimate I Spy.

Like all seek-and-solve games, Ultimate I Spy is a simple puzzle game that gives you a riddle and tasks you with scouring various scenes to find the hidden objects hinted at in the riddle using the Wii Remote to point and click the items when discovered. Seek-and-solve games typically consist of static 2D pictures, however for the first time ever the riddles in Ultimate I Spy take place in 3D scenes that you must pan and zoom around in order to complete.

The 3D graphical quality is actually much better than you’d expect from a casual game of this ilk, the 10 different environments – classroom science fair, aquarium, table of board games, outer space, magic show, etc. — provide plenty of visual diversity, and as you find objects you’ll trigger events and animations within the stage.

The riddles are very well balanced too. Each of the 40 riddles has a handful of items that are obvious finds and then two or three that are cleverly camouflaged and extremely tricky to find even for the most eagle-eyed of players.

Armed with the Wii’s motion-sensing interface, Ultimate I Spy also introduces interactive elements and mini-game to the riddles. This is where the game falls flat just a bit. Some of these games are alright, like connect-the-dot puzzles and arranging objects in a certain order, but most are terribly simplistic (even a five-year-old would probably find them dull) and feature shoddy motion-sensing recognition. Activities like waving the remote to blow a paper boat across water, flicking the remote in specified directions in a drum-beating challenge, and pointing at the screen to guide a fish along in an underwater race. What’s so annoying is that each of the 10 environments’ four riddles requires you to repeat the same mini-games. They aren’t interesting the first time, so by the second, third and fourth times you’re just going through the motions. Thankfully most of the mini-games take no more than a minute to complete, so the suffering doesn’t last long.

Overall, though, Ultimate I Spy is the quintessential Wii casual game. It’s a great interactive experience for children that is both fun and educational, and is the perfect game for gathering the entire family around the TV to solve the game’s 40 puzzles as a team. Over the holiday last week I showed the game to my mom and she became totally addicted to it. My mom knows games having grown up watching me play them all my life, but it’s rare that any game ever gets her to actually participate. Ultimate I Spy did, and I’d say that’s proof positive that this game meets its target audience with resounding success. That and I — the big, bad hardcore gamer who is supposed to hate this type of game — actually found myself enjoying it quite a bit too!

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Seek-and-solve fun for the entire family
+ Well balanced riddles in terms of difficulty
+ Diverse collection of riddle stages
+ 3D riddle environments bring something fresh to the genre

Cons:
– Crummy, tacked-on mini-games

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Scholastic Media
Developer: Elastic/Gusto Games
Release Date: 11/4/08
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!